Congratulations to the 2019 Leadership Certificate Program Graduates!

Young Professionals of Knoxville would like to congratulate the graduates of the 2019 Leadership Certificate program. These young professionals completed an 6-week intensive course, learning how to set and achieve personal and professional goals, discussing leadership and the qualities of a good leader, and discovering their own strengths and how to apply them at work and in the community.


Wesley Bain

Wes Bain graduated from Bellarmine University with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts with a double major in Piano Pedagogy and Music Technology, with a Minor in Jazz Studies. He began working for Towne Park in Louisville, KY in 2013 and found that he had a passion for business, leadership, and the service industry.

Wes has managed multiple hospitality and healthcare valet accounts in Louisville, KY, and in December 2017 moved to Knoxville to open up the Hyatt Place Knoxville, quickly networking to establish new contracts in the Knoxville market. Most recently, Wes has opened up a valet operation at the Courtyard and Residence Inn on Church Avenue. Wes expects to continue expanding Towne Park’s services in the Knoxville market.

Jerry Askew’s talk on the 4 Maxims of Leadership was extremely valuable to me. There are a few phrases that I took back to my operation immediately: people tend to support things they helped to create, being a good leader requires knowing your followers, and redefining the word “love” as “to want the best for somebody.”


Courtney Dyer

Courtney Dyer is a Clinical Recruiter for TeamHealth. In addition to her YPK membership, Courtney serves on the Advisory Board for her sorority, Sigma Kappa. Courtney graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor’s of Communications. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, traveling, cheering on the Vols and spending time with dog, Bogart.

The Leadership Program provided an opportunity to meet with leaders in the community who share the same passion I do for my hometown. The variety of guest speakers presented ideas I am excited to utilize in my workplace and sorority advisory board. My biggest takeaway is Jerry Askew’s Community Maxim - “people support ideas/groups when they help create.” By being active at work or in an organization, you feel connected and more willing to participate in projects and activities; therefore, you are building a stronger connection with colleagues. The more connected you are - the more involved you become and make a positive impact.


Mary Gray

Mary works as a tax accountant with Crowe LLP. She holds a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license and has a Master of Accountancy from UT. May serves as a volunteer with Humane Society of Tennessee, among other organizations. Mary is passionate about serving her community and spending time with her family and friends. She and her husband have three dogs and a cat and can often be found exploring what Knoxville has to offer.

The YPK Leadership Program has taught me that each person's measure of and path to success is unique. It has helped me understand my personal strengths, how to use them to build others up around me and to stay true to my own path. It also gave me the opportunity to meet other young leaders and to build a deeper connection with them!


Sam Hicks

Sam is the Marketing and Events Manager for Tailgate Tennessee. She earned her MBA in marketing from UT, and previously worked in the UT Athletic Department. Sam is a junior member of LPGA Women Who Play and enjoys volunteering with animals.

The YPK Leadership Certificate program taught me about the power of an inspirational leader-- someone who motivates by helping others develop their personal and professional strengths. My biggest takeaway is the importance of growing those around you to be leaders themselves.


Mary Virginia Ireland

Mary Virginia was born in Atlanta, Georgia but has lived all over the southeastern United States. She attended Mercer University in Macon, Georgia where she received her bachelor's degree in Elementary and Special Education. She continued her studies at The University of Alabama where she received her master's degree in Higher Education Administration. Currently, she works at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in the Tickle College of Engineering as an academic advisor. On evenings and weekends, she works at Ta'Vie Boutique in Turkey Creek as a stylist and sales associate. She also enjoys volunteering once a week at Centro Hispano where she teaches English to Latino adults. In her free time, she loves to exercise, read, spend time with friends and family, travel, and try out local dining hot spots.

The Leadership Certificate Program has been such a wonderful opportunity. I have connected with so many local young professionals and we have grown together through commonalities, differences, and a drive to better ourselves and our community. My biggest take away from the program is the understanding that leaders unite under a common vision. A leader does not need an official title or a plaque, they simply need one follower and to lead from whatever seat they find themselves in. Through my talents and investment, I can discover my true strengths as a leader.  


Brandi King

Brandi King is a Corporate Recruiter at Radio Systems Corporation in Knoxville, TN. She is an entrepreneur at heart, with a knack for public speaking and networking. A Knoxville native, she loves meeting new people and figuring out what makes them tick, learning their aspirations, and helping them achieve their goals. Committed to her community, she will leverage the skills she has learned from the YPK Leadership Program to make a positive impact and enrich the lives of others in the Knoxville area.

The leadership program has taught me the impact a leader can make and how to influence others by leveraging their strengths and empowering their talents. I have also learned the importance of mental health and balance, being mindful and intentional as both a leader and a team player.


Katie Martin

Katie Bolt Martin has lived in Knoxville since the 3rd grade, graduated from Farragut High School and stayed in Knoxville to graduate from the University of Tennessee. Katie is the Executive Director of the East Tennessee Kidney Foundation, where she manages all aspects of the foundation as a “one-woman shop.” Katie lives in west Knoxville with her husband, two daughters and German Shepherd. Katie loves to travel; while at UTK she spent one semester studying abroad at Swansea University, Wales, United Kingdom. Some of Katie’s favorite travel destinations include Ireland, Switzerland, Austria & Hawaii.

The YPK Leadership Certificate Program provided an opportunity to get to know other YPK members who share common goals. Others' passions to better themselves as well as improve our Knoxville community were inspiring and refreshing. I was impressed by the level of straightforwardness and honesty displayed by the guest speakers. Their presentation of leading by example, humility and transparency immediately captured my trust and admiration. My biggest takeaway was, “Your job title or station in life does not automatically make you a leader. You can be a leader in any position; a good leader inspires others to be their best selves, leads by example, and cares about the individuals whom they are leading."


Cortney Roark

Cortney Roark is a Communications Analyst at Knoxville Utilities Board. She enjoys volunteering, watching movies (...or rewatching the Office...), finding reasons to host parties, and absolutely anything outdoors.

The Leadership Certificate program has taught me various things, but the one thing that stood out most is the importance of placing value in relationships in both professional and personally aspects of life. Whether it was hearing about how an unhealthy work-life balance led to a breaking point, or learning a new definition of love - wanting the best for someone -, the past six weeks taught me that placing value in people is where you’ll find success.


Mark Schillinger

Mark is a Hydraulic Engineer and Project Manager for Geosyntec Consultants; where his practice focuses on addressing riverine and coastal flooding, hydroelectric relicensing, waste containment facility design, and environmental dredging. In his free time, Mark enjoys hiking with his dog Ace, spending time on lakes and rivers, and volunteering.

I thoroughly enjoyed being able to gain different perspectives on leadership from a wide variety of professionals as part of the YPK Leadership Certificate Program.


Josh Shaffer

Josh was born in Bristol, TN. As a first-generation college student, he attended University of Tennessee where he received a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 2011. He studied abroad in Siena, Italy and participated in a semester long exchange program in Krakow, Poland. Currently, he works with Sparkman & Associates Architects as a project manager. Prior to his current position, he worked in the nonprofit field at East Tennessee Community Design Center and Appalachia Service Project. He believes in giving back to the community through volunteering as a TNAchieves mentor, with K-12 projects organized by the American Institute of Architects – East Tennessee Chapter, and with a local community garden. Josh and wife Sarah own a home in the Oakwood-Lincoln Park neighborhood with their adorable, little cat named Jasmine.

Each presenter had a unique take on leadership but they all had a common theme of wanting the best for their employees and recognizing each individual's talents. It was refreshing to hear that leadership is less about bossing people around and more about listening and clearing away any obstacles that may prevent your employees from doing their best work.


Bobbi Tunnell

Bobbi is a Banking Specialist for the Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians. Originally from Asheville, NC and relocated to the Knoxville area after graduating from East Tennessee State University in 2018. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, traveling and spending time with her friends and family.
The YPK Leadership Program gave me the opportunity to gain knowledge and learn from experiences that local leaders in our community illustrated. I have learned the importance of time management skills in order to become an effective leader not only in my workplace but in my community. I am thankful for this opportunity and excited to see where this experience will lead me in my future endeavors!


Janna Lowther

Janna is a Tax Manager in the Knoxville office at Crowe LLP. She has more than six years of taxation experience in public accounting, including compliance and consulting tax services.

I’ve enjoyed the instructors and their words of wisdom. One of my main takeaways is that taking care of myself should come first. Another thing that stuck with me is that I can’t be good at everything; everyone has his/her strengths, and I should learn what they are and how to best apply them in my personal and professional life.